Raw deal for Goa’s musical talent…

Obligato swings...Colin D’Cruz is a musician one ran into by accident. It stemmed out of a review of a Limca Book of Indian Records, and an error while mentioning his background. Colin got in touch, and that led to some more stories. Including one about this interesting Latino-Goan band called Obligato, of which I just managed to find a cached story.

[File photo alongside shows Colin, second from right, along with Julius (extreme right, on keyboards), and visiting British Salsa dancers appreciating music of Obligato.]

Later, Colin did a concert for Daniel Pearl, the journalist slain in Pakistan. He’s been touring worldwide with Sonu Nigam and doing what seems to be a 101 other things.

Recently, Colin shared with me his views on the Goan music scene. As a man who has travelled and played far and wide (including trying to make Goa his home-to-return-to), he should know.

Colin believes that the Goan musician really needs a better deal. (S)he has been

getting a raw deal from event organisers for years now. I experienced this mself when I was part of the live music scene there. Event organisers in Goa will go out of their way to bring in an outstation band, paying them ten times what their Goan conterparts are paid just to boast about a band from Mumbai or Shillong or Timbaktoo or where ever. One may argue that current Goan bands do not measure up to the outstation bands and how would they? Where is the incentive for a local band to put up a good act when they are paid Rs. 2000 while the outstation band is paid Rs. 20,000 to perform at the same event? It’s high time organisers in Goa learnt to boast about talent from Goa….

Colin uses harsh words, but not strong enough, to talk about the “pathetic situation right now for musicians in Goa”.

He adds: On my part I am setting up a state of the art recording studio in Sangolda and I will record upcoming talent in Goa for free, producing their demos or even albums in deserving cases.”

Colin has a point here. Let’s hope he can attain his dreams and vision. And if it indeed turns out to a useful venture, it would need support. Are you there?

Fighting “communalism”, Goan-style

Last week, the Rane-led Congress government in Goa spoke of stopping the “sprouting of illegal constructions and encroachments in public property”, while talking about a law to tackle “communalism” in the state.

New legislation to tackle riots on cards (By Herald Reporter) PANJIM, JULY 12 — Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane tonight said the government is contemplating to bring a legislation with measures to prevent communal disturbance as well as controlling illegal constructions. Rounding up the general discussion on Budget for 2006-07, the chief minister said we have to jointly think of fighting the communal forces trying to create social tension. He said in another 3-4 months, the State government would come out with a legislation to prevent such ugly incidents. The comprehensive legislation would try to put a stop to the sprouting of illegal constructions and encroachments in public property.

First of all, my belief is that the main two forces currently spreading “communalism” (or, intra-religious hate and enmity) are the politicians the press.

Suddenly, the issue of “illegal constructions” is becoming central to this debate. That is strange.

Firstly, let us accept that the laws are so tight in today’s Goa that it’s almost impossible to build a ‘legal’ structure in even your own property. Anyone wanting to squeeze something out of you can point to flaws… unless you have a very good architect, and are rich enough to afford a whole lot of real estate to build on. (But then, even the five-star lobby has been flouting the largely-impractical laws with impugnity.)

Religious shrines have been sprouting all around, but it is only Muslim shrines that get targeted. It appears that the religious places of the two more established-in-Goa religions (Catholicism and Hinduism) don’t get challenged on grounds of being illegal. But they are visible all over the place, including in Kadamba bus stands at places like Panjim and elsewhere.

“Legality” is also a question of having the state behind you. A communally-minded government could easily turn into “legal” any shrines of its choice. Or, conversely, turn illegal those it doesn’t like. For example, none of the churches built during Portuguese rule in Goa would have been considered “illegal”, but if someone wants to build a controversy over the same now and has a government in power, this could easily be the case.

It’s frightening to see the insidious campaign against places of worship being built by Muslims in Goa. Some time back, a search for areas where such issues had been raked up, threw up a fairly long list below (probably there would be more cases which I missed through an internet search). For instance:

Luizinho flays bid to burn mosque: The Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Luizinho Faleiro expressed shock over the attempt to burn the mosque at Mardol on December 13. From Gomantak Times, December 14, 2004.

Protected monuments: Ten more ancient and historical sites in the State have been brought under the protective shield of the Goa, Daman and Diu Ancient Monuments and Archaeological
Sites and Remains Act, 1978 with effect from October 16, 2003. These include the Fort of Reis Magos at Verem, the Fortress of Khorjuve at Aldona, the Cave of Sidhanath at Surla, the Mosque and Tank at Tar Surla, the British Cemetery at Dona Paula, the Fortress of St Estevam, the Fort at Marmagoa, the site of Kaivailya Math at Consua-Cortalim, the Cave at Shigao-Sanguem and the site of Narayandev at Vichundra in Sanguem. In Herald, October 19, 2003

Maulana directed not to hold demonstrations in front of masjid VASCO: Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Mormugao, Levinson Martins, in an order passed on March 16 directed the Maulana of Madina Masjid, Vasco, and the managing committee not to hold any demonstration in front of the mosque or take any rally in and around Vasco city or cause any breach of peace. Gomantak Times, March 17, 2006.

‘Demolish all illegal religious structures in Mormugao’ The Murgao Samaj Seva Samiti of Vasco has demanded that all illegal religious structures – be it a mosque, temple or church – in Mormugao taluka be demolished by the concerned authorities and that there should not be interference from any quarters. The Samiti has also requested the Hindus,
Christians and Muslims to support the authorities in this task. Weekender/Goamantak Times, March 19, 2006.

Govt pledges aid for South Goa’s Davorlim mosque Submitted by Herald Cybernew… on 23 November, 2003 – 9:36am. MARGAO, NOV 22 (HR) Panchayat Minister, Babu Azgaonkar has assured the Muslim community that the government would provide required infrastructure to the Al Sunni Masjid located at

Desecration of mosque at Housing Board, Mapusa, flayed. According to the Mufeedul Muslameen Youth Organisation, antisocial elements had demolished the compound wall,
important parts of the mosque and burnt the mats used to perform namaz. Herald, October 11, 2005.

Curti village council discusses the masjid (Muslim prayer centre) issue. Gova Doot. Dec 6, 2005.

Tempers ran high at Curti-Khandepar on Friday, when residents held a demonstration to demand the demolition of a masjid project under construction at Curti. Herald, October 15-16, 2005.

I find it impossible to believe that only one community is committing illegalities. This is also not what is visible at the eye-level. Why is the issue being posited in this manner? And what role is the Congress government playing on the same? The BJP approach is more or less well known and open.

This could be like the case of those post-Curchorem meetings which were insidiously converted into campaigns to criticise “illegal religious shrines” without appreciating the implications of the same. The role of the media in stoking up such issues also needs to be monitored.

An email… from Ingo

For some reason, Ingo who runs (ran?) the controversy-hit Saturday Night Bazaar at Goa, sent me a copy of his email announcing plans for the coming tourism season. It reads:

halo goawalla, no one wants a repeat of last years confusion, step one is information. the right one! and it starts right here with you, below i have given step by step instructions how to add yourself on database.

Actually, I believe that Goa is going about systematically destroying anything that could act as its USP (unique selling point) in building its tourism product. While a number of issues still remain — including corruption, misuse-of-office, the large-scale buy-out of Goa’s lands by people from Indian big cities or foreigners — that’s not good reason enough to get suspicious of everything and everyone, and block them from creating interesting products in Goa. That said, the onus is on the organisers to find a suitable venue for their events, and not try setting up the same in places where these cause culture-shock to villagers quite unused to the idea.

Ingo’s contact addresses are bagaingo@yahoo.com and snbgoa@yahoo.com, which obviously stands for Saturday Night Bazaar.

BTW, during a recent visit to Bangkok, I found the night-market of that city quite visitor-friendly and useful. Ingo’s focus, with some amount of European-organisational skills, is on food, music and handicrafts. His mistake perhaps was that he was seen as replicable and superfluous in a Goa where it’s an each-man-for-himself-and-the-devil-take-the-hindmost approach these days. Who has a broader vision of building an interesting, pro-people (rather than pro-big business), colourful and attractive tourism product?

Stamps, stamps, stamps…

Here’s a mailing-list on Yahoogroups.com that looks at stamps from “Portuguese India” (as Goa and some other areas were formerly called), andStampsInGoa the list is called StampsInGoa.

It has 41 members currently, was started by Clinton Vaz (24) of Benaulim, and not all posts deal with Goa.

But some are interesting ones. Lawrence Fernandes is talking about stamps from the German East Africa colonies. And Benedict De Braganza has an interest in the same. There’s another world out there.

Which ISP to go for… when visiting [Goa]

Gene Lobo of Aldona runs Systeck Computer Solutions at 7-12 Braganza Trade Centre (opposite Mapusa’s Remanso Hospital, ph +91-832-2266433) in Goa. On Aldona-Net, one of the village-based mailing lists in Goa, he recently offered his advice on what ISP to choose, if you’re visiting Goa.

So, if you go by his advice, this reflects the options available in Goa, India’s smallest state (or province). He says: BSNL. The CLI is best for visitors. As they pay only for what they use and there is no rent nor time limit for this connection. keep in mind it is a dial-up connection. If a visitor wants high speed then he can go for rental broadband. Modem rent (100per month) and the monthly plan charges, which can be surrendered before leaving. You do not need to buy the modem in this case. For the above plans you have to have a BSNL land line.

RELIANCE. This option is available with the WLL Reliance connection, it is a mobile unit (the size of a land phone) you can get the connection wherever there is reliance coverage. You have to apply for internet cable (USB/Serial) and the connection is easy. Note: Reliance is known for excess billing so you have to be cautious. This is not a broadband connection as they claim, is a wireless connection (better than a dial-up) and speeds are pretty good.

TATA Indicom. Same as reliance. Tataindicom boradband (you have to have a Tata (Hughes) land line. You can get a adsl broadband connection (like BSNL). Not recommended for visitors.

Earlier, he had offered some rates for BSNL (i.e. for what is defined as “broadband” in India): For a basic connection it will cost you Modem Rs. 1200 Registration charges Rs. 100 Installation Rs. 250. Total Rs. 1,550. This is a monthly plan where you have to pay Rs. 250 per month for a rent and you are allowed 400 MB of upload/download per month.

POSTSCRIPT: After circulating this in cyberspace, a long-time friend and librarian-turned-internet guru Eddie Fernandes had this comment to make on Goanet:

When I last visited Goa in Nov. 2005 I checked out various packages. he Reliance offer looked appealing but one has to buy a Reliance andset – I think the cost was Rs 12,000. Has the requirement changed?

Since I also required a mobile phone service, the one I opted for was dea GPRS package which required a Bluetooth mobile phone and Bluetooth nabled laptop, which I had. The Idea package, MWA ( Mobile Web Access) 500 cost Rs 500 a month and allowed free unlimited internet onnection and data download. There are other cheaper packages vailable though – see http://www.ideacellular.com/MH_PPvas.htm#IdeaGPRS
I was able to connect via the modem in the mobile phone from almost anywhere in Goa, even sitting in a car or restaurant. The speed was not brilliant but opening multiple windows for surfing did the trick. I was also able to use the Idea account to make and receive telephone calls

The staff at Idea set up the required software to enable the laptop to mobile phone link. All I had to do was to switch the two on and press a single button. I could also make and receive mobile calls when connected to the internet. Idea is at http://www.ideacellular.com/


Checkmate: Vision for the visually-impaired

Recently, I ran into Rufina Fernandes. She’s the Chief Executive Officer of the Nasscom Foundation (some difficulty to get through this page currently, but can find some links to its cached site here).

As its name suggests, the Nasscom Foundation is linked to the National Association of Software and Service Companies, which in turn calls itself “the premier trade body and ‘voice’ of the IT software and service industry in India”.

Rufina holds responsibility for overall operations of Nasscom Foundation. She has also been working in the field of CSR (“corporate social responsibility”). An alumni of The Xavier’s Institute of Management in Mumbai, when we met she was talking chess.

Why? Because the Worli-Mumbai based All India Chess Federation for the Blind is holding the XI Individual World Chess Championship for the Blind in Goa from October 8-19, 2006. It’s scheduled to be hosted by India “for the first time in history” that this event is being held outside Europe.

Ms Fernandes pointed out to one section in their brochure:

Chess is particularly relevant for visually-challenged persons. It is the only game that the visually-impaired can play against the sighted on an equal footing. In fact, visually-impaired players have pitted their wits and outshine sighted players in open tournaments. After all, it is the battle of the minds!

Ms Fernandes says they expect 41 countries to take part, and currently the network has 100+ participants, including international masters and grand-masters. India will have two teams of four people each, as host.

In India, she informs, this activity started in 1997. Currently some 14 states are active in the network. Lots has been done by states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and more recently, by West Bengal and Gujarat. In 1998, India stood a joint second, inspite of lacking the infrastructure and support back home.

Everywhere, the advertising world equates chess to a strategic move. Consulting firms and banks use chess coins when they want to convey a message through their adverts, suggesting their strategic moves. But when it comes to the brasstacks, there is very little support (from officialdom and others). Everyone in India supports cricket

, says this spokesperson who has been associated with this network.

Some links: International Association for Blind and Visually Impaired Chess, braille chess associations from all over the world, useful links from the US Braille Chess Association, United States Braille Chess Association, Braille Chess Association of Ireland. Even the All India Chess Federation for the Blind is among the top seven to ten Google.com-ranked websites.

In India, you could also contact Charudatta Jadhav, the general secretary of the All India Chess Federation for the Blind at charudattaj at gtllimited.com or chess at eth.net.